PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The original field for the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge that Tiger Woods hosts each year in California included Ernie Els, who had never played the unofficial event. The Big Easy has kept his streak alive.
He withdrew this week to play the Nedbank Challenge in his native South Africa on Dec. 5-8, which now is considered an official-money event on the 2014 European Tour.
"This tournament holds some really wonderful memories for me and my whole family," Els said on his website. His staff sent him a list of achievements at the Nedbank Challenge, which included his three wins, record 16 appearances, a 69.93 scoring average and 46 rounds under par.
Els was replaced in the 18-man field at Sherwood Country Club by Dustin Johnson.
For a tournament that counts only toward the world ranking, the World Challenge still managed to attract 18 of the top 29 players in the world.
SEMINOLE’S ON DECK: These are good times for American amateurs who are good enough to be selected for the Walker Cup. Golf Digest reported on its website this week that Seminole Golf Club is the latest classic to host the Walker Cup, in 2021.
For Seminole, the Donald Ross design along the Atlantic Ocean in South Florida, it will be the first time for a public competition since it opened in 1929.
The course is not long by modern standards – 6,836 yards all the way back – but the wind and difficult greens make it a strong test for even the pros. Ben Hogan used to prepare for the Masters every spring at Seminole. The club has a pro-member event each spring, and Rickie Fowler has the low score at 65.
The Walker Cup was played this year at National Golf Links on Long Island. It previously was at Merion in 2009 and Chicago Golf Club in 2005. The next American venue will be Los Angeles Country Club (2017). When held in Britain & Ireland, it has gone to Royal County Down and Royal Aberdeen in recent years. The event next will be played in 2015 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
WELCOME TO THE 60s: Tiger Woods doesn't play a lot of PGA Tour events where he has all four rounds in the 60s and still doesn't win. It happened once this year at The Barclays, where he was runner-up. It happened once in 2012 at the Deutsche Bank Championship. Before that, go all the way back to the Tour Championship in 2006.
Part of that is because of the difficult golf courses on his schedule.
There were 10 players in the 2013 season who had at least three tournaments where they shot in the 60s every round without winning.
The leaders of the hard-luck category: Zach Johnson and Brendon de Jonge each had four tournaments with all four rounds in the 60s and no trophy.
DIVOTS: The McGladrey Classic at Sea Island might not be hurt so much next year from missing players who were in Shanghai the previous week. Tournament officials said the 2014 event will be held Oct. 23-26, before the tour does its two-week Asia Swing. Equally important for Sea Island, it will be before the Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville, Fla. Sea Island is the unofficial headquarters for Georgia fans going to the game. ... Los Angeles Lakers great Jerry West is stepping away from his role as executive director of the Northern Trust Open at Riviera after just more than three years. The tournament has hired former UCLA golf coach O.D. Vincent to replace him. Vincent recently was senior associate athletic director at Washington. "My goal was to help elevate the tournament as a way to give back to the city that has given me so much," West said. ... Jack Nicklaus helped the Western Golf Association raise $900,000 for the Evans Scholars Foundation last week when he was honored at the WGA's annual "Green Coat Gala" in Chicago.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Eleven Americans are in the final stage of European Tour Q-School, up from five a year ago.
FINAL WORD: "I enjoyed the summer. Everybody leaves, you see, so it's nice and quiet." – Lee Westwood of England, on his first summer since moving to South Florida.